Patriots

For Pats, road to Dallas now paved Black and Gold

For Pats, road to Dallas now paved Black and Gold

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com
Start ordering those party platters for February 6. The Patriots chances of playing in the Super Bowl increased exponentially Saturday night. Ableak week of Ray Rice, revenge, reviling Ray Lewis and the revolting mug of Terrell Suggs we won't have to deal with. Instead, weget Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall, Polamalu's salad and the blitz schemes of Dick LeBeau.
Once the Patriots take care of business against the New York Jets as they ought to on Sunday, the Steelers come next. And the Steelers can't beat the Patriots in a conference championship game. Just doesn't work. Had it been the Ravens, the swagger would have been de-swagged. The Patriots needed OT to beat Baltimore in Week 5, got crushed by them in last season's playoffs, barely hung on during the 2009 regular season and barely hung on during the 2007 regular season. The Ravens defense is nasty. And Suggs was playing like a force of nature. But the fact Baltimore has a better-than-average-but-not-by-much quarterback like Joe Flacco playing for them means they are going home. Once they stop bitching about the officials. Pittsburgh? In Roethlisberger, they have a legitimate "elite" quarterback, a guy who's got twice as many Super Bowl rings as Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. You wouldn't want to see him show up in your driveway to pick up your daughter, but you would love to have Big Ben playing quarterback for you. Against most teams. But not New England. In Week 9, the Patriots beat Pittsburgh 39-26 and the stats Roethlisberger compiled (30 for 49 for 387 yards, 3 TDs and an INT)were a shining example of why QB passing stats are bogus. Roethlisberger took five sacks for 38 yards and the pick he threw was returned for a touchdown. He started 7 for 20 for 90 yards and took three sacks. After the score got to 29-10 early in the fourth (after the pick-6 by James Sanders), Big Ben went 14 for 16 (one was a spike) for 203 yards in chasing down a lost cause. When the game was a contest, he was 16 for 33 for 184 yards. Roethlisberger is 2-4 against the Patriots. He's 0-1 in the playoffs (the 2004 41-27 beatdown at Pittsburgh. He won his first start against the Pats in 2004 (the day Ty Law and Matt Light went down) and beat the Cassel-led Pats in 2008. Generally, the Patriots take care of business against Roethlisberger by lying back and making him process coverages. Eventually, he makes a wild throw because he's not terribly accurate. As for the Steelers defense, they can be a beast but not to Tom Brady. He's 6-1 against the Steelers lifetime. He toys with them. We've got plenty more to plow through on this matchup once it becomes a reality. Until then, treat yourself to some of this.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?

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EX-PATS PODCAST: Why does it seem Patriots secondary is playing better without Gilmore?

On this episode of The Ex-Pats Podcast...

0:10 - Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen give their takeaways from the Patriots win over the Falcons including the defense coming up strong against Atlanta but New England still taking too many penalties.

2:00 - Why it felt like this game meant more to the Patriots, their sense of excitement after the win, and building chemistry off a good victory.

6:20 - Falcons losing their identity without Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator and their bad play calling and decisions on 4th downs.

10:00 -  A discussion about Matt Ryan not making the throws he needed against the Patriots and if he has falling off the MVP caliber-type player he was last season.

14:00 - How and why the Patriots secondary seems to be playing better without Stephon Gilmore and why Malcolm Butler has been able to turn up his play as of late.

Mother Nature gets between Belichick and his Patriots-Falcons film study

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Mother Nature gets between Belichick and his Patriots-Falcons film study

If your team makes a goal-line stop in the fourth quarter, but you can't see it on the All-22 tape, did it even happen? 

Bill Belichick said the fog that hovered above the Gillette Stadium turf on Sunday night didn't impact the play on the field, but it did make its imprint on the game in other ways. First of all, spotters and coaches up at the press level had some difficulty relaying information to coaches on the sidelines. Video on the hand-held tablets for sideline use -- as well as the old-school still-frame pictures Belichick prefers -- was also obstructed. 

Then on Monday, as coaches tried to digest the film, the fog butted in on the process again. 

"It affected us a lot this morning because it’s hard to see the game," Belichick said during a conference call. "The fourth quarter is – I don’t know – pretty close to a white-out on the sideline film. The sideline cameras are at the top of the stadium, so that’s a tough shot.

"The end zone cameras are a little bit lower and they get a little tighter shot, so the picture is a little bit clearer. But, on that shot, a lot of times you’re not able to see all the guys on the perimeter. It’s kind of an in-line shot.

"Yeah, the first half, start of the third quarter, it’s all right. As they get into the middle of the third quarter and on, for those of us with aging eyes, it’s a little strained to see it, and then there’s a point where you can’t really see it at all, especially from the sideline. So, yeah, it affected us."

Belichick re-iterated that the fog didn't do much to the product on the field (other than maybe making life difficult for kick and punt-returners), refuting Julio Jones' claim from late Sunday night. When it came to digesting the film, though, that was another story.

"It was more, I’d say, just tougher for, whether it be our video camera or the fans that were sitting in the upper deck. It’s just there was too much interference there," Belichick said. "It was probably hard to see the game. I know when we tried to look at the pictures in between series – you know, I don’t look at the tablets, so I won’t get into that – but the pictures, it was kind of the same thing. It was hard to really be able to make out exactly what you were seeing."